Written by Julie Gore
International Montessori School of Prague
Most of us automatically assume that since children do not have to worry about jobs or paying the mortgage, they do not go through what we term “stress.” However, there are many pressures that a child feels on a daily basis, especially when it pertains to education. When beginning school, the separation that a toddler or kindergartner feels from a parent is the number one cause of stress. As children grow older anxiety tends to stem from the academic and social pressures associated with changing to a new school.
The amount of strain this puts on a child will obviously depend on the individual personality, but as parents, you can help to alleviate the stress coupled with these transitions. Parents should strive to do the following when their child is placed in these situations:
- Look for a school that has a simple environment, with defined areas of study throughout the day. The school should have a balance of educational and recreational activities so that the children are given time to release. Focus should be placed on the individual attributes of the child by the school, and the teachers should seek to find ways in which they can meet the child´s interests and welcome them into the school community. For instance, in Montessori education students are given the choice, within a reasonable set of guidelines, of what activities to explore in sensorial, practical life, language, mathematics, and cultural/science studies, thus cultivating their independence and creative thinking skills. The role of the teacher is to carefully observe the child´s academic and social needs and guide them in the right direction. This feeling of “I accomplished this all by myself!” coupled with the security of knowing that a teacher understands the child´s personal needs, is vital to the confidence of a child during an educational transition. For younger children, it is also important to observe whether the teachers spend much time with the children at eye level (i.e. working through an educational activity with them on the floor).
- Once you have decided upon a school, visit the classroom with your child for at least one hour before the first day of school. Your child is always in the comfort zone with you, and this will make the initial shock of change easier to swallow. During the visit, point out interesting things in the classroom to make the experience seem positive. Regardless of the age of the child, ask them about their thoughts and feelings after the visit.
- Talk to your children! Once school has begun, spend time with them every day learning about their school experience and talking about their emotions. If there are any negative feelings, together work through what you can do to help the child solve them. For younger children, it may even help to have them draw pictures of situations they have faced at school.
- Throughout the entire process, remain positive! Negative words heard from you will always be brought to school and affect the education of a child.
Julie Gore is the Public Relations Director for the International Montessori School of Prague.
Originally printed in IWAP magazine “The Bridge”
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